Richard J. Pappas, Ed.D. 

President of Davenport University

Richard J. Pappas, Ed.D., is president of Davenport University, a private, nonprofit university founded in 1866 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Under Dr. Pappas’ leadership, Davenport has implemented quality measures that have elevated its academic programming, student support, market position and financial strength. Davenport’s graduation rate has increased by more than 163% since his arrival, and student retention, student satisfaction, and philanthropic giving are at all-time highs. In fact, through this focus on outcomes Davenport recently earned the 2020 Baldrige State Quality Award, the first university in Michigan to earn this recognition. The university is now completing its comprehensive Vision of 2025 and next year will develop its Vision 2030. In 2021 Davenport University was recognized nationally by the American Council on Education and Fidelity Investments receiving the award of Exemplary Innovation and Transformational Leadership Award.

Dr. Pappas has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, including 35 as a college and university president. Prior to joining Davenport in 2009, he served as president of National-Louis University (NLU) in Chicago, Lake Michigan College in Benton Harbor, Mich., and Harford Community College in Bel Air, MD.

Among his honors and achievements, Dr. Pappas received the University of Michigan’s Norman C. Harris Alumni Award and the National Council for Marketing and Public Relations’ Pacesetter Award. In 2016, Insight Into Diversity honored Dr. Pappas with its Giving Back Award. In 2023, he was also listed among “West Michigan’s 200 Most Influential Leaders” in Crain’s Grand Rapids Business.

He served for two years as the Chair of the Council of Presidents for the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), a competitive collegiate conference within the NCAA’s Division II. He also serves on the board for The Right Place, Inc., and is a participant in the West Michigan Talent First initiative. He currently serves on the Board for the United Way for Southeastern Michigan, and serves on the Michigan Education Trust board of directors. He served as Chair of the board of Michigan Independent Colleges and Universities (MICU) and continues to be a committed member. He was also recently was a panelist at the Mackinac Policy Conference.

His past board commitments include serving on the board for the American Council on Education (ACE) as well as on the board of directors for Fifth Third Bank, and as Chair of the board of both the Heart of West Michigan United Way, and the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

A native of Michigan, Dr. Pappas earned his doctorate degree in higher, adult and continuing education and master’s degree in higher education and business management from the University of Michigan. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Eastern Michigan University.

Dr. Pappas is currently one of the longest-serving presidents of any college or university in the state of Michigan, serving 15 years as president of Davenport University.

Dr. Pappas Board 2023